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Getting Started: Deer Hunting

Stay Local. Stay Natural. Eat Wild Game.

Hunting is one of the most inexpensive and ethical ways to fill your freezer with natural, free-range meat. But taking up hunting can be challenging and intimidating. Don’t let this discourage you. We can help you with all the information and resources you’ll need to safely and responsibly hunt and harvest your own local food.

The basics of hunting deer in Ohio is outlined below, and you can also get started learning with our interactive Introduction to White-tailed Deer Hunting online learning module. This content covers the basics, including deer ecology, rules and regulations, an overview of deer hunting, and places to hunt … all at your own pace! A fact sheet, outdoor skills YouTube videos, and other resources are also available. After reviewing introductory information, we encourage you to attend a virtual or in-person learning opportunity with friendly and knowledgeable staff for hands-on experience.

Link: Introduction to White-tailed Deer Hunting Learning Module Link: Introduction to White-tailed Deer Hunting Fact Sheet Link: YouTube Playlist - Learn Outdoor Skills Link: Wild Ohio Harvest Community Events and Learning Opportunities Link: Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook Link: Where to Hunt in Ohio

The Benefits of Learning to Hunt

Harvest Your Own Natural Food
Hunting is a source of natural, free-range, and inexpensive food. Not to mention the meat is lean and healthy!

The Challenge
On a hunt, your senses are sharpened. Awareness of your surroundings is heightened. This is more than observing the environment – it’s active engagement. Hunting challenges the mind and the body. It demands skill, knowledge, and patience. 

Experiencing Nature
Hunting brings us closer to nature and understanding our natural environment.

Hunting in the United States is highly regulated, which helps make it a safe, sustainable, and highly popular activity. The sale of hunting licenses, permits, and stamps provides much-needed funds to wildlife research and management programs. Ethical hunters care about the environment. Without proper conservation, our wild spaces could be lost.

Ecological Balance
The Division of Wildlife manages healthy animal populations by implementing regulations, which are directly related to the need to manage species’ numbers. Without hunters, the carrying capacity, or the number of animals that the habitat can support all year, may be unsustainable, which would lead to damage for the wildlife or the habitat.

Why Hunt?
Learn more about how nature, local food, and a variety of motivations are linked through hunting in “Why Hunt?”, a publication of the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Established in 1982, this conservation organization works to inspire an ethical relationship between people and nature through the legacy of Aldo Leopold.

Why Hunt? A Guide for Lovers of Nature, Local Food, and Outdoor Recreation (Aldo Leopold Foundation)

Deer Hunting Considerations

What Makes Deer Hunting Different?
Deer have an excellent sense of smell, and scent is a key factor in successfully harvesting deer. Pay attention to which way the wind is blowing to ensure you are not setting up where the wind will blow your scent to deer in the area, which will spook them. Many hunters will scout in the area they will hunt before the season starts and select a few spots in case the wind isn’t ideal in one location on a given day.

When hunting for deer, you can use a firearm or a bow in Ohio. While the firearm season for deer is shorter in Ohio than the archery season, hunters can ethically harvest deer from greater distances. In contrast, while archery season is significantly longer than the firearm season for deer, hunters harvest deer from shorter distances and need to get closer to take an ethical shot. Learn more about firearms on our Getting Started: Firearms page or learn more about archery options on our Getting Started: Archery page.

Getting Started: Firearms
Getting Started: Archery

Hunter Education and Safety

Hunter Education
To buy a hunting license in Ohio, you’ll first need to complete a hunter education course. Our courses cover firearms, archery, outdoor safety, wildlife management, conservation, and more. Best of all, you can choose between instructor-led learning and home-study courses.

Learn more about completing Hunter Education

Review the Hunter Education Study Guide Online
Reading the Hunter Education Guide is a great way to get started learning about hunting, firearm safety, and understanding wildlife.

Hunter-ed.com is committed to hunter education safety and provides print and Internet hunting safety courses for more than 45 states.

Hunter Education Study Guide (hunter-ed.com)

If you’re learning to handle firearms or archery gear, or simply want to sharpen your skills, there are a number of public shooting and archery ranges available to you.

Getting Started: Firearms
Getting Started: Archery
Find Ohio Public Shooting and Archery Ranges
Public Shooting Ranges Contact Information & Buy Permits

Hunter Safety
There is nothing more important than being safe while in the field. During the youth deer gun season, deer gun season, and the deer muzzleloader season, hunters must be visibly wearing a vest, coat, jacket, or coveralls that are either solid hunter orange or camouflage hunter orange (regardless of the implement they are using to hunt). 

Hunter Safety Information
Ohio's Hunter Orange Requirements [ODNR YouTube]

Tree Stand Safety
Some deer hunters like to use a special elevated stand that is mounted in a tree, which allows the hunter to get an advantage over the deer’s vision, since deer don’t typically look up. Hunting from a tree stand is exciting and effective, but hunters must be sure to keep themselves safe. 

Hunters are seriously injured and killed each year from tree stand falls. About one in every three hunters will experience a fall from a tree stand in their hunting career.

It is unlawful to construct, place or use a permanent-type tree stand, or to place spikes, nails, wires or other metal objects into a tree to act as steps or to hold a tree stand on public hunting lands. It is also unlawful to make any of these changes to trees on private property without first getting the permission of the landowner or the landowner’s authorized agent. Learn more about tree stand safety with the resources below.

Tree Stand Safety Tips [ODNR YouTube]

Hunter-ed is committed to hunter education safety and provides print and Internet hunting safety courses for more than 45 states.

S.T.E.P.S. to Safe Tree Stand Hunting (hunter-ed.com)

HUNTERcourse.com offers hunter safety education courses partnering with Hunter Education and other organizations.

Online Tree Stand Safety Course (optional, HUNTERcourse.com)

The Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that every hunter that uses a tree stand does so in a safe manner.

Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation

Build Your Skills: Learning Opportunities

Buy an Apprentice License
Apprentice hunting licenses and apprentice fur taker permits allow new hunters and trappers, both adults and youth, to sample the experience of hunting and trapping under the mentorship of a licensed adult prior to completing a hunter or trapper education course.

Learn more about the Apprentice License

Participate in a Skill Session with Us!
There's no better way to learn than getting out in the field and giving it a try. If you don't know anyone who can take you out hunting, consider participating in a hands-on learning opportunity with the Division of Wildlife, with one of our Wild Ohio Harvest Community events. Our staff is committed to guiding you through the process of learning essential hunting skills in a patient and pressure-free environment. This can also be a great place to meet other new hunters!

Check out our calendar of upcoming Wild Ohio Harvest Community experiences, classes, and courses (virtual and in-person). These opportunities are provided by the ODNR Division of Wildlife and other skilled and knowledgeable conservation organizations across the state.  

Wild Ohio Harvest Community Calendar of Events

Participate in a Partner Event
Many conservation organizations and conservation clubs throughout Ohio such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, National Deer Association, and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers offer learning opportunities for anyone to try their hand at hunting and other outdoor activities. These organizations are dedicated to instructing new and continuing participants, opportunities can range from beginner level to advanced, and some are specifically for new participants. This is also a great way to meet other people who are passionate about sharing their knowledge with new hunters.

Search Conservation Clubs in Ohio (Google)

The National Deer Alliance
The National Deer Alliance (NDA) is dedicated to ensuring the future of wild deer, wildlife habitat, and hunting.

Learn more about NDA

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) advances positive change for wild public lands, waters, and wildlife.

Learn more about Ohio BHA

Other Learning Opportunities
Many businesses and organizations offer outdoor recreation courses seasonally and year-round in Ohio. L.L. Bean, Cabela's, Field & Stream are just a few that provide opportunities at different levels to learn how to shoot, hunt, fish and cook wild game in addition to other outdoor recreation courses.

Learning Resources: Preparing for the Hunt

Overview of Deer Hunting
Important parts of getting ready for a deer hunting season include purchasing your hunting license and deer permit, reviewing the most current version of the Ohio hunting regulations and local regulations, finding a place to hunt, spending some time before hunting season checking it to find good places to set up (scouting), shot placement, and making sure your firearm or bow is ready.

The equipment you will need or borrow will depend on if you prefer an archery or firearm hunt and on personal preference. If you are thinking about taking the next step into hunting after learning to shoot, it is important to know that only certain kinds of hunting equipment may be used when hunting different wildlife species. The resources listed below are great places to start.

Introduction to Hunting Deer Learning Module
Introduction to Hunting Deer Fact Sheet
Wild Ohio Harvest Community – Outdoor Skills [YouTube]
Allowable Hunting Equipment

National Deer Alliance & Hunters Connect Resources
Learn important aspects specific to deer hunting in a Deer Hunting 101 video series from National Deer Alliance, or discover more about preparing for a hunt, developing skills, public and private land, and deer-specific information in the Hunters Connect library.

The National Deer Alliance (NDA) is dedicated to ensuring the future of wild deer, wildlife habitat, and hunting. They work to promote sustainable, high-quality deer populations, wildlife habitats, and ethical hunting experiences through research, education, advocacy, and hunter recruitment.

Deer Hunting 101 Video Series (NDA)

Hunters Connect is part of the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA), and is designed to offer a bridge between hunter education students graduating, buying their first hunting license, and going on their first hunt.

Hunters Connect Video Library

Buy Your Hunting License and Permits
All hunters, regardless of age, must carry a valid hunting license to hunt or trap game in Ohio. Hunting deer, turkey, waterfowl, or hunting or trapping of furbearers also requires the hunter to possess an additional game-specific permit. Hunting licenses and permits are available at all authorized license sales agents and online. Ohio’s license year begins March 1 and ends the last day of February.

Buy Licenses and Permits Online
Deer Hunting Permit & License Finder - Not sure which deer hunting license/permit to purchase? Use this handy flow chart to find out.

Review Statewide and Local Hunting Regulations
Hunting in Ohio is seasonal and regulated to protect animal populations. Make sure you understand the right time to pursue game and the correct methods to do so.

View the Ohio Hunting Regulations

Ohio laws in their entirety can be found by consulting the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) or the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC). These laws are subject to change. It is your responsibility to be aware of the most current laws when shooting firearms.

Ohio Revised Code (ORC)
Ohio Administrative Code (OAC)

Awareness of Local Regulations
Be aware of local hunting regulations (e.g. city regulations) before hunting.

Find a Place to Hunt

Public Land
The Division of Wildlife owns and allows public hunting on wildlife areas across the state. 

Find a Place to Hunt
Public Hunting & Wildlife Area Maps (printable)
Ohio's Public Lands & Facilities Interactive Map
State-Owned Lands Designated as Public Hunting Areas [pdf]

Controlled Hunting Access Lotteries
The Division of Wildlife conducts annual hunts on a number of areas that are normally closed to hunting. All applicants (adults and youth) must possess a current hunting license to apply for controlled hunts. Participation is determined by random computer-generated drawings.

Controlled Hunting Access Lotteries

Permission to Hunt on Private Land
The landowner's written permission is required for hunting and trapping on private land, regardless of whether the land is posted. Permission slips are available at all Ohio Division of Wildlife district offices, in the Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations, or it may be downloaded below.

Permission to Hunt Form [pdf]

Equipment Preparation & Shot Placement
Take some time to familiarize yourself with your bow or firearm, to ensure you know the effective range for your implement, can place accurate shots, and feel comfortable with it. Test out different distances and consider wearing the same clothes you would on the hunt.

Learning where to place a shot for an ethical harvest on a deer is an essential skill. Learn more about shot placement in our Introduction to Deer Hunting learning module and with an interactive graphic from Realtree. Be sure to practice your shot placement at the range before heading into the field.

Introduction to Hunting Deer Learning Module

Realtree is a company that specializes in the creation of camouflage designs for clothing and hunting equipment.

Learn More About Shot Placement (Realtree)

Learning Resources: Hunting Equipment

Using the Right Equipment
If you are thinking about taking the next step into hunting after learning to shoot, it is important to know that only certain kinds of hunting equipment may be used when hunting different wildlife species.

Allowable Hunting Equipment
Introduction to Deer Hunting Online Learning Module

Learning Resources: Hunting Deer

Know Your Wild Game
Only certain species can be legally hunted in Ohio and each has a specified hunting season. As a good hunter, it is also important to know as much as you can about the species you are hunting.

Season Dates and Bag Limits

General Resources
Getting Started Learning to Hunt (Locavore Guide)
Field Processing Wild Game (Locavore Guide)
The Modern Carnivore
Wild Game: A Nutrition Guide (Outdoor Life)

White-tailed Deer
Introduction to Deer Hunting Online Learning Module
Introduction to Deer Hunting Fact Sheet [pdf]
WOHC YouTube: Learn Outdoor Skills
How to Deer Hunt (Real Tree)
Deer Hunting Tips (Outdoor Life)
Tools You'll Need to Process Deer (Hunter. Angler. Gardener. Cook.)

Learning Resources: After the Hunt

How to Tag and Check Deer
Every person who kills a deer or turkey must report their harvest via the tagging and checking process. Fortunately, this process can be completed quickly and easily online at ohiogamecheck.com.

Check Your Wild Game Harvest Online
Check Game Using the HuntFish Ohio Mobile App

Field Dressing and Meat Processing
After you have tagged your deer, you will need to remove the internal organs to cool the meat, and decide if you are going to process it (the process of separating the meat into desired cuts for consumption) yourself or take it to a professional processor. The average Ohio white-tailed deer yields over 50 pounds of venison! You can also learn about processing, venison cuts, and cooking wild game in our Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook.

Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook: Processing & Cooking Wild Game
Venison Meat Yield [pdf]
White-tailed Deer Fact Sheet [pdf] (Wild Harvest Initiative)

National Deer Alliance and Ohio State University Resources
Find useful videos discussing field dressing and other important processing information in a Deer Hunting 101 video series from National Deer Alliance and visit Ohio State University for information on freezing and canning venison.

The National Deer Alliance is dedicated to ensuring the future of wild deer, wildlife habitat, and hunting. They work to promote sustainable, high-quality deer populations, wildlife habitats, and ethical hunting experiences through research, education, advocacy, and hunter recruitment.

Deer Hunting 101 Video Series (NDA)

Ohio State University (OSU) Extension is a non-formal educational system, offering programming to address the needs of the local community and state, national, and global issues.

OSU Extension: Freezing and Canning Venison

Find a Local Wild Game Processor
Get some help processing your meat and take your harvest to a local wild game processor.

Search Ohio Wild Game Processors (Google)

Cooking - Make Your Culinary Experience Wild!

Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook
And now for the most rewarding part - creating a delicious, healthy meal. We love cooking at the Division of Wildlife and have compiled many fish and wild game recipes over the years. Search for wild game recipe ideas in our online Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook! 

Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook: Venison Recipes
Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook Recipes [YouTube]

Other Wild Game Cooking Resources
There is a lot more information out there about cooking wild game, along with creative recipes to try. Here are a few of our favorite resources.

Hunter, Angler, Gardner, Cook is a website run by Hank Shaw, a former restaurant cook who writes cookbooks related to fishing, foraging, and hunting.
Hunter. Angler. Gardener. Cook.

Modern Carnivore is focused on reconnecting people to healthy meat options and introducing them to a lifestyle of "direct harvest" including foraging, hunting, and fishing.
Modern Carnivore: Recipes

Stay Informed and Support Your Wild Ohio

There's More to Come!
The Division of Wildlife works hard to keep Ohioans informed of all the latest wildlife-related happenings around the state, provide opportunities to participate in outdoor recreation and teach the importance of wildlife conservation. Don't lose touch - follow us on social media, get the Wild Ohio Magazine, and sign up for email alerts. We are planning more opportunities for beginning hunters in the very near future!

Wild Ohio Harvest Community Instagram

ODNR Division of Wildlife Facebook
Your Wild Ohio - Angler Facebook
ODNR Division of Wildlife Instagram
ODNR Division of Wildlife Twitter
ODNR Division of Wildlife LinkedIn
Wild Ohio Magazine
ODNR Division of Wildlife Weekly Email Updates

Support Ohio's Wildlife
We can't manage wildlife populations without you! The Division of Wildlife does not receive general tax dollars to manage Ohio's native wildlife, so contributions are always appreciated. Here are some ways your dollars can support wildlife conservation in your Wild Ohio:

  • Your annual fishing license or hunting license
  • An Ohio Wetlands Habitat Stamp
  • An Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp
  • Wildlife license plates
  • Make a donation, or give through the tax check-off program

Donate to Ohio's Wildlife Conservation
Purchase a Specialty Wildlife Conservation License Plate
Purchase an Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp
Make a Tax Donation
Make a Memorial Donation

Help a Biologist and Report Wildlife Sightings

Report your wildlife sightings online and help Ohio biologists track a number of different species, including black bear, bobcat, river otter, ruffed grouse, turkey and more.  For more information on how you can help, please follow the link below.

Report Wildlife Sightings Online